Earlier this year, I lived with two men — my husband and his best friend. It was a ménage a trios, but not in the traditional meaning of the expression.
I loved them both, but no where near as much as they loved one another. These two men shared a bond like none other I’ve ever witnessed.
For 31 years they worked together, played ball together, gambled, laughed, cried, complained, ate, drank, wrote music and shared secrets. During football games, if not in the same room, they would call each other constantly like teenage girls.
They both loved boxing, bluegrass, beer and bourbon.
In other words, they shared everything.
One thing they didn’t expect to share was cancer.
But they did.
During our last months together, I often felt like the outsider. Doing the laundry. Cleaning the bathrooms. Running errands. Trying not to talk too loud, or too often.
Mostly watching. As the two most important men in my life fought the battle of their lives.
No one tells this story better than my daughter. In her words:
I’m not one to share sad stories…this however is a love story. Between two friends. My Dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. His best friend Al, never left his side. In the hospital he was there, with ice chips and the occasional perfectly… timed quip. His wit and intelligence is unmatched. And his understanding of my father, like no other. He stood in the hospital room like a Roman guard. His emotions level, as he stayed strong for my family. He was there at the house when my Dad got home. Al got him out of the house on days when my Dad just wanted to stay in bed. Al was his guardian angel.
Fast forward one year. Al now lies in a hospital bed, a diagnosis far more grim than my father’s. It is now the sick, taking care of the sicker. Yet here is my father, by his side. Cooking for him, giving him his medicine. Helping with trips to the bathroom, doctors appointments and hospital visits. My Dad carried him down the street, when he couldn’t walk. If he could carry his body to the other side, he would. As a war veteran, he is used to staying level headed under stress. He is now the Roman guard. The protector. And as Al lies in my parent’s house, clinging to life, my Dad says to me, “Anna, what am I going to do? He is my only friend.”
Here we are now, having said our goodbyes to one of the wittiest, kindest human beings to have ever lived, and my husband is searching for an answer to his question.
I’m spending more time with him, which is a good thing, some of the time. Because as all married couples know, too much togetherness is like eating a huge ice cream cone. It starts off sweet and delicious, but inevitably begins to drip and get messy.
I mean, how much time can you spend with another person before you drive each other crazy?
And isn’t that why God created best friends? To keep the craziness in check. (Why he takes them away, I’ll never understand.)
But the truth is, I cannot be my husband’s best friend. I don’t want that. I want to be his wife.
I married him for better or worse and ’til death do us part (which fortunately isn’t any time soon). But I didn’t sign on to share all those secrets which best friends share. How can you complain to someone about themselves? That type of sharing often leads to an argument. Complaining to a friend leads to “yeah, I get you.”
Those conversations are what friends are for. That and so much more.
And it’s the “more” that is missing for my husband these days.
But I know with time he will find a place for himself in his future. As does everyone who loses someone so important to their world. Until then I shall be there to catch his tears and carry the weight of his memories.
As our daughter says:
This journey will bring me closer to everyone I care for. Something that Al will love. Because in the end isn’t that what it’s all about. The people we meet…and the love we share. So love. With reckless abandon. Love each other.